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A Survival Kit for The Winter Blues!

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as “The Winter Blues,” affects millions of American adults and children every year.  A primary symptom of SAD is a change in mood resulting in feelings of sadness, depression, increased irritability, and possible feelings of hopelessness.  SAD also impacts an individual’s ability to think positively.  They may lack enjoyment, seek social isolation, have low energy, increase their want and/or need for sleep, and increase their cravings for comfort foods instead of healthier food choices.  SAD differentiates from clinical depression due to the fact that the depressed mood and symptoms typically will last 4-5 months.  Adults and children in northern climates are at a higher risk of developing SAD symptoms as the fall and winter seasons shorten the hours of sunlight significantly each day.  Whether parents notice symptoms of SAD in themselves, or their child(ren), the symptoms must be taken seriously.  Therefore, families need to be prepared to face SAD symptoms, or the Winter Blues, together!

The good news?  There are many things parents can do to help themselves, their children, and their family overall thrive throughout the bitterly cold winter days!

  • Take advantage of the “nice” weather days! When the sun is shining, bundle up the whole family and release some physical energy outside by going sledding, ice skating, building a snowman, ice fishing, snowshoeing, or participate in a family snowball fight!  Be sure to capitalize on all of the “fun” traditional winter activities whenever possible!
  • Be creative when stuck inside! Minimize time on the TV, phones, computers, gaming systems, etc.  Here are a few ideas to engage in indoor activities together as a family:
    • Paint the snow! If you can’t go outside, bring some snow inside.  Fill a large bowl or multiple small bowls with snow, and then use watercolor paints to create fun designs.  This activity will stimulate excitement, laughter, and communication for all involved.
    • Create your snowman! Grab some construction paper, mini marshmallows, glue, cotton balls, and markers.  Engage in this creative activity together and then follow-up with a conversation of why each person chose to make their snowman the way they did.  You can also hang the finished products on the wall to show pride in your family’s work and remind each member of your family of a fun memory!
    • Pick your favorite summer activity and recreate it at home! Go “camping” in your living room or set up a beach-style party!  Whether you eat s’mores in a tent and tuck into your sleeping bags that night or decide to put on swimming attire and create a beach vibe, there will be excitement and fun had by all!
    • Find more creative ideas for indoor winter activities online. Pinterest has a plethora of ideas!  The three ideas noted above were retrieved from the following article: 15+ Indoor Winter Activities for Kids to Beat the Winter Blues (momooze.com).  If you like the three ideas I mentioned, be sure to check out the rest!
  • Create a well-balanced meal plan with your family each week to avoid the comfort food cravings!
    • It is challenging as a parent to juggle all appointments, activities and keep up with daily chores when all family members are healthy and not struggling with symptoms of SAD. Therefore, by having each family member sit down weekly to create a menu focused on ensuring nutritional values are met through most meals will help parents stay focused.  Depletine of the essential nutritional food groups occurs often during the 4-5 month window of The Winter Blues.  You have the power to offset that depletion and engage in more family time!
    • Take the time to shop for your meal plan/weekly menu as a family. Although taking your kids to the store can create stress, it will get you all out of the house for a while.
    • Make cooking supper a family event each night or as often as possible. Engage your children in the process of preparing and cooking as age-appropriate.
  • It is essential to know when to seek professional help! Monitor the well-being of yourself and your family members as The Winter Blues can become very serious!
    • Severe cases of SAD can be treated through four main categories: Light Therapy, Psychotherapy/Talk Therapy, Medication Management, and Vitamin D Therapy.
    • Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or an established mental health provider as soon as you recognize the symptoms of SAD are worsening.
    • Know that if you, your child, or someone you know is in immediate distress or thinking about harming themselves, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you reside in North Dakota, you can also reach out to FirstLink National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 211 (dial 2-1-1).

This blog was written by Post Adopt Coordinator Katie Davis, LBSW

References/Resources:

Hull, M. (2021). Seasonal Affective Disorder Statistics. The Recovery Village.  Retrieved from Seasonal Affective Disorder Statistics – The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Seasonal Affective Disorder. (NIH Publication No. 20-MH-8183).  Retrieved from NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder (nih.gov).

Lyness, D. (2020). Seasonal Affective Disorder.  KidsHealth.  Retrieved from Seasonal Affective Disorder (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth.

 

Holiday Blues

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There is so much happening these days, between switching seasons – summer to fall to winter,  holidays to be celebrated, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, to Christmas – and a change of years.  These holidays, season changes, and new years are typically to be filled with joy, excitement, celebrations, connectedness to family and friends.  However, adoptive families may experience the holidays with a different shade than what was hoped or expected.

The intent of these hopes and expectations comes from a place of generally good but may leave you feeling frustrated or let down.  Parents, if you’re finding yourself in a hazy lens of mixed emotions, you’re not alone.  Many parents have found themselves in some array of disappointment as plans didn’t go as expected.  In planning for the remaining holidays of this year or planning for the holidays of years to come, there may be a few options to consider:

  1. Plan a getaway if need be. Large group celebrations characteristically take place over the holidays, filled with feasts, conversations, games, etc.  These details may create a cause of anxiety or feelings of fear for your youth.  Talk with your youth ahead of time about what to expect, and provide opportunities that can be done to help ensure there is an escape route to take place or a quiet place to unwind if need be.
  2. Plan events that are in the best interest of your youth. If the large group celebrations cause a great deal of dysregulation, plan to do something that better suits your youth and immediate family.  Perhaps dinner and movies/games at home will lessen the amount of dysregulation.
  3. See and acknowledge the loss your youth may be experiencing. Youth in the realm of adoption may have a multitude of losses.  These losses may include birth families, former foster families and traditions.  These loses may take a toll on a youth, leading a youth to feel isolated during the holiday season.  It’s important to have conversations with youth to acknowledge the losses.  Implementing some of the aspects of the youth into traditions in the adoptive home can allow for more connectedness for them.
  4. Allow your youth to grieve the important people they miss through the holiday season, as well as traditions that might not be able to be held. The change of plans or expectations you had hoped for may cause a sense of sadness or feelings of being let down.  Allow yourself to acknowledge and grieve the loss of your unmet expectations, too.

The key is to implement and tweak what works best for your youth, your family, and you.  It’s ok to do holidays, gatherings, and this season differently.  Step into having conversations with your youth and validate their emotions and losses.  Not only are your youth important, but so are you!  Allow yourself to be honest with how you’re feeling – be gracious with yourself as you reflect on where you may be at, as well.  Look at your family’s needs, and dare to step out of your norm to meet those needs.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Strengthening Relationships Through Communication

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Can you hear me?  Are you even listening?  These are questions we may ask ourselves while communicating with our children, significant others, friends, and even the cashier at the grocery store. Communication refers to the process in which one person conveys information to another person.  Information can be shared through verbal dialogue or non-verbal communication. While we know our words are important, non-verbal communication is responsible for up to 93% of conversation messages. This statistic indicates self-awareness of your own communication style and skills are vital in establishing and, ultimately, strengthening your relationships.

Communication self-awareness is essential in all relationships; however, establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with children through communication can be particularly challenging. Relationships between parents and their children can benefit greatly by emphasizing effective communication daily. Here are some tips on how to implement effective communication for you and your child(ren):

  • Be genuine and speak from your heart. Communication is a two way street!  It is important that parents show vulnerability regarding their own feelings and needs.  This gives children the opportunity to learn from their parents and create an open and honest dialogue in their relationship.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal messages.
    • Be aware of your tone of voice. How something is said is often more important than what is said.
    • Make and maintain eye contact as much as possible while respecting the child’s comfort level. Our eyes really can be the window to our souls.  By focusing on your child’s eyes, you will be more likely to interpret their feelings or emotions accurately and effectively show you are paying attention to your child and their needs.
    • Start conversations at eye-level with your child. For instance, if they are sitting on the floor, sit down with them.  Your posture and gestures can send strong messages to children.  For instance, if a parent is standing above a child when speaking their statements may seem threatening or uninviting to the child.
    • Listen with a closed mouth. This will limit interruptions when your child is talking.  You can offer non-verbal encouragement through smiling and other facial expressions to show you are actively engaged in communication.
  • Let your child know they have been heard.
    • Summarize what you hear back to your child in order to ensure you heard what they intended to say.
    • Feel free to ask questions about their story or statements. These questions offer children an opportunity to see you are engaged and care about what they are saying.
  • Keep conversations brief.
    • Have shorter conversations more often with your child.
    • If addressing an issue, have an initial conversation and schedule a time for you and your child to come back to the issue after calming down and preparing for the follow-up conversation.
  • Use communication builders/boosters like the ones below to open lines of communication:
    • “I’d like to hear more about that!”
    • “What did you think about…?”
    • “That’s really interesting. Will you say more?”
    • “I’m confused. Will you explain that to me?”

Effective and open communication takes time to establish, especially with children!  However, by increasing your self-awareness and focusing on your verbal and non-verbal communication daily, you will create a habit of being active in your conversations.  The result will be a closer and positive relationship between you and your child.

This blog was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Katie Davis, LBSW.

References/Resources:

Elsevier B.V. (2021) Nonverbal Communication. Science Direct.  Retrieved from https://sciencedirect.com/topics/social-services/nonverbal-communication

Sheafor, B.W., & Horejsi, C.R. (2008) Techniques and Guidelines for Social Work Practice (Eighth Edition), Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Zolten, K. & Long, N. (2006) Parent/Child Communication.  Center for Effective Parenting.  Retrieved from https://parenting-ed.org/wp-content/themes/parenting-ed/files/handouts/communication-parent-to-child.pdf

Binge Eating Disorder and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

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Throughout this blog post, I will be discussing the diagnostic criteria, symptoms and warning signs, and ways to help someone who may be struggling with Binge Eating Disorder and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or AFRID

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder occurs when large amounts of food are consumed and an individual feels unable to stop. According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018), binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Binge eating disorder can be severe but is treatable. After an individual engages in a binge, they typically do not try to get rid of the extra calories by vomiting, using laxatives, or exercising like someone who struggles with Bulimia might. To help with the extra calories, they may try different diets or eat typical meals.

Diagnostic Criteria: According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018), to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating are present. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both items below:
    • Eating an amount of food that is more than what most people would eat
    • Lack of control over eating during the episode
  • Binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following:
    • Eating more rapidly than normal
    • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
    • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling hungry
    • Eating alone due to feeling embarrassed by how much is being consumed
    • Feeling disgusted with self, depressed, or guilty afterward
  • Binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months
  • Distress regarding binge eating is present

Symptoms and Warning Signs: Below are a few emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms and warning signs. For a full list, please visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

  • Emotional and Behavioral: appearing uncomfortable eating around others, steal or hoard food in strange places, disrupt normal eating behaviors, creating lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge sessions, and eating when feeling full or not hungry
  • Physical: noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down

How to help: Engaging in an open and honest conversation regarding concerns can be helpful. You do not want to display feelings or emotions that may be conveyed as shameful or blaming. It is also important to normalize and reinforce a healthy body image. As always, it is essential to seek professional medical treatment for further assistance and guidance. It is important to research and educate yourself on binge eating disorder and recognize the warning signs and symptoms

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018) ARFID is new to the DSM-5 and was previously referred to as “Selective Eating Disorder.” AFRID is similar to Anorexia as they both involve the inability to meet nutritional needs. However, ARFID does not involve any distress about body shape or size. ARFID involves not getting a sufficient amount of calories to grow and develop appropriately. It is noted that those with autism spectrum conditions, ADHD, and intellectual disabilities are more likely to develop ARFID (National Eating Disorders Association, 2018).

Diagnostic Criteria: According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018), to be diagnosed with ARFID, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • An eating disturbance associated with one or more of the following:
    • Significant weight loss and nutritional deficiency
    • Needing to take oral nutritional supplements
    • Lack of psychosocial functioning
  • Avoidant behavior is not explained by lack of available food or associated with cultural practices
  • It does not occur during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and no evidence in the way the body weight or shape is experienced
  • Not associated with a medical condition or mental health disorder

Symptoms and Warning Signs: Below are a few emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms and warning signs. For a full list, please visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

  • Emotional and Behavioral: reporting consistent gastrointestinal issues around mealtimes that have no known cause, lack of appetite, fear of weight gain, and restricting certain types or amounts of food.
  • Physical: abnormal laboratory results, frequently feeling cold, poor immune functioning, fainting, thinning of hair, and dry and brittle nails

How to help: It is important to research and educate yourself on ARFID and recognize the warning signs and symptoms. Being supportive and encouraging professional help can also be beneficial.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW

References:

National Eating Disorders Association. (2018, February 22). Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

National Eating Disorders Association. (2018b, February 22). Binge Eating Disorder. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

Binge-eating disorder – Symptoms and causes. (2018, May 5). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/binge-eating-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353627

The Three R’s

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You may see your youth go from 0 to 100 in what seems like a second flat, with really no indication to why you see an exculpated behavior.  You may be asking yourself and your child, ‘what is going on?!’ as you’re trying to make sense of behavior(s) in front of you!  How many times do you hear your youth respond with, ‘I don’t know?’  The truth is, youth most likely don’t know what is going on.  And they might not be able to express the why behind their behavior for awhile!  Using Dr. Perry’s Three R’s may help you and your family bring down the escalated moment a bit quicker.

The first step in the Three R’s is to Regulate.  When youth are in their behavior, they’re utilizing their basement brain, known as the brainstem.  The brainstem is where primitive actions occur, and youth need their basic need of safety met.  The goal is to help youth come back down to their baseline.  Starting off, youth might not know how to regulate themselves, so a parent must walk beside the youth in order to help them regulate.  Helpful tools to use include: providing a quiet area, sensory items, music, or breathing in/out techniques (breathe in to smell the cocoa and breathe out to cool the cocoa off).  Just as it is important to allow the youth to regulate, it is important for the parent to regulate, as dysregulated parents can trigger youth.  So, as a parent, take a few moments and cool off!

When the youth is regulated, they’re able to move from functioning from their brainstem to utilizing the limbic part of their brain.  This is when the second R, Relating, can be worked through.  When working within the realm of relating, parents are to have a sensitive conversation with their youth.  During this time, parents need to be attuned with their youth and connect with them to validate their youth’s emotion.  An example parents may use includes, ‘I can see how that situation was very frustrating.  Remember parents, you don’t have to agree with the youth, but it’s more important to validate the youth’s feelings than to tell the youth their wrong in how they’re feeling!

The final step is to Reason.  This step is final because youth are now out of their primal minds, away from using their basic level of thinking.  This is where youth can think from the higher level of their brain, known as their cortex, where logical thought occurs.  Parents and youth can now talk about the behavior that happened and better ways to handle future situations.

It may take time for you to become comfortable in putting each piece of this into play.  It may take time for your child to respond to each part, and that’s okay!  Give yourself and your child some grace.  It may be a new technique for both of you to learn and implement.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Holiday Traditions

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The holidays are the perfect time to express our love for our family. This year, how about starting to incorporate adoption into your annual holiday traditions with these simple practices:

Light a candle

Say a prayer, express your gratitude, or reflect on the reasons why you love the people in your life who are there because of adoption. Create a quiet tradition that allows you to gather with your loved ones and reflect on birth family, adoptive family and adopted children.

Send something in the mail

Gifts don’t have to cost much! Sometimes the best way to let someone in your adoption triad know that you’re thinking of them is to collect photos, write a letter, have the kids draw a picture, and send it out in the mail. Talk about the year, update them on your life, or tell them that you love them and are thinking of them.

Make space for sad feelings

The holidays can bring a mix of emotions. Remember that it’s okay if not all of those feelings are happy ones. Adoptees may feel sad around this time of year when thinking about their birth family. Birth parents may feel the loss of their birth child more deeply. As well as the adoptive parents may grieve the losses the birth parents and their child have felt. The best way to honor these feelings is to talk about them together and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel both happy and sad about adoption.

Pick up the phone

A phone call on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day can mean the world to the members of your adoption triad. Even sending a text with a photo is an easy way to let someone know you’re thinking of them.

Schedule a visit

If your adoption includes visits, the holidays are the perfect time of year to get together. Try to book your visit in advance. Everyone gets busy during this season! Grabbing lunch, seeing Santa together, or taking a walk to see the lights are all simple ways to catch up in person.

Make an ornament

Every year, you could get crafty and make an ornament. It can be painted, feature a photo of your child from that year, or even a theme! Send it to the members in your adoption triad, or hang it on your own “memory tree,” then watch them add up throughout the years. I think this one is my favorite!

 Re-tell your adoption story

Adoption isn’t a one-time conversation. It should be a common theme and celebrated topic in your home. This season is often a time to reflect on the past, and look toward the future. So, this is the perfect time to re-tell your child’s adoption story. If possible, birth and adoptive parents can join together (even if it’s just virtually) to tell the story and express the love they continue to feel. The holiday season is all about expressing love and gratitude for families of all kinds!

*What are your family’s favorite holiday traditions? How do you find ways to honor adoption during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, NaTasha Sawicki, LBSW

Tips to Connect with Your Child

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We may find ourselves amidst days filled with busyness – getting kids off to school, work, appointments, extracurricular activities, dinner, homework, and bedtime routines.  Before we know it, we realize we didn’t have an opportunity to spend time with our youth.  While the intentions are there to have this great quality time, we may not know even where to start with building it into the already busy schedule.  This may lead to feelings of guilt, frustration, inadequacy.  Name the feeling, and I guarantee almost every parent has felt that way at some point along their parenting journey.  The important key to remember, though, is that parents can be successful in connecting with their youth – it just has to be prioritized!  Below are some tips that may help:

  • Make this time to connect with your child a priority
    • Put it in your calendar to ensure that it will be done!
  • Be creative in planning time with each child
    • Plan something on the weekend to spend time with each child
    • Have some alone time right before bed, or even right away in the morning
  • Have a trusted babysitter, or even tag team with spouse, to ensure this connected time will happen
    • Ask them to watch other kiddos to ensure time spent with a child
    • Maybe have this person connect with your youth, too, especially if you’re tag teaming with your spouse!
  • Find ways to send special messages
    • Embrace social media and have fun messaging!
      • Perhaps have a family group text message or social media message!
      • Send messages directly to your child with words of encouragement!
    • Write a note and put it in their lunch bag, backpack, or on their bathroom mirror!

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Trauma and Eating Disorders

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While researching eating disorders, I came across an article and website that discussed different eating disorders, and I didn’t realize how many different types there are! Aside from some of the more common and well-known eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating, some are less common and unheard of. Eating disorders can affect both men and women, and develop in early childhood through midlife, but most are reported in the teen and young adulthood years. Throughout this blog post, we will discuss how trauma can and may impact the development of eating disorders. While genetics and family history can play a role in developing eating disorders, it is also reported that trauma can contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. Those who have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are more likely to develop psychological issues. Eating disorders can create various health issues affecting the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, neurological system, and endocrine system.

There are many different types of traumas that can play a role in developing an eating disorder. Those traumas can include neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and bullying. When an individual experiences trauma, they may manage their emotions through controlling their eating or engaging in addiction type behaviors. While many people who have an eating disorder have suffered some form of trauma, it does not mean that all people who have an eating disorder have suffered trauma. You can also develop an eating disorder if you have not suffered any trauma. According to (Ross, 2018), eating disorders are rarely about food. Eating disorders are more centered on control.

If trauma has been experienced and an individual develops an eating disorder, it is essential to seek treatment and professional help for both the trauma and the eating disorder. Treatment for just the eating disorder or treatment for just the trauma will not aid in the treatment process as a whole. Different forms of therapy can be help in treatment. Therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can be beneficial in the treatment of an eating disorder, as well as the trauma that may have affected the development of the eating disorder.

Throughout the next few blog posts we will be discussing different types of eating disorders. The eating disorders that will be discussed will include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (AFRID), Pica, Rumination Disorder, Unspecified Feed or Eating Disorder, Laxative Abuse, and Compulsive Exercise.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW

References/Resources:

Ross, C. C., MD. (2018b, February 21). Eating Disorders, Trauma, and PTSD. National Eating Disorders    Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/eating-disorders-trauma-ptsd-recovery

National Eating Disorders Association. (2018, February 21). Information by Eating Disorder. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-eating-disorder

School Year Transition

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For many, the month of August marks the beginning of a new school year, whether that is public school or homeschooling. Due to the multiple changes with the education system last year during the pandemic, youth (and adults) may experience a variety of emotions preparing for the start of the school year. During the summer months, many youth get out of routine with different summer activities and events, family vacations, and summer nights.

Here are some different ways to help your child (and yourself) get ready for the transition back to school:

  • Practice your school routine a few weeks before school starts, including going to bed earlier each night and getting up earlier.
  • Establish a nighttime routine. Prepping lunches for the next day and picking and laying out clothes the night before can help create a more calm morning.
  • For youth going into Kindergarten, practice eating lunch and supper within the appropriate timespan they will be given at school. Lunchtime at school can be very short and new students can typically feel overwhelmed with the change.
  • For any youth who may be feeling anxious or nervous, you can take a school tour, meet the teacher(s), and practice any forms of transportation.
  • For families who choose to homeschool, it can be helpful to have all the necessary and needed supplies, and create a school/workspace for lessons.
  • It can be helpful to plan out after-school snacks and suppers to help with the nighttime routine and flexibility.
  • Planning out schedules (school, work, sports) for each family member can also be beneficial.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW

Acknowledging and Working Through Loss

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Darcy, Post Adopt Coordinator, shares tips on working through loss with your adoptive child:

Acknowledging and Working Through Loss

Adoption is a beautiful blessing, but with this blessing comes a tremendous amount of loss.  Youth experience loss of birth family, culture and first home environment.  Loss follows youth throughout their life, and a youth may be triggered by loss through various tasks, senses, and memories.  Youth may need to readdress their losses at different developmental milestones throughout their life.  It’s important to help youth acknowledge and grieve their losses, so they can begin to heal.  Below is a list of a few ways you as a parent can assist and support your youth with the losses in their life:

  • Give your child permission to grieve the loss of his birth family without guilt.
    • Suggest times and places where your child is welcome to express their grief, and ways in which they can grieve.
    • Talking, journaling, drawing, or venting feelings through exercise are just a few options.
  • Create a “loss box.”
    • The youth can put items in the box that represent the different losses they have
    • By creating this loss box and putting items in it, it allows the youth to create and partake in a ritual that acknowledges their loss.
    • The youth will have a tactile object that allows them to revisit their losses in the future when they wish to do so
  • Redefine what creates a family.
    • Families may continue to change over time
      • Families may grow larger, and in certain circumstances, the members of our family may leave and our family may become smaller
    • Continue to have conversations about what family is, what it means, as your child may need to address this throughout various stages, and as the family dynamics may change
    • Be open to what your child has to say, as the child may have a great, broader view of what family is
  • Include birth parents/birth family members in pictorial representations of the adoptive family tree.
    • One option would be to depict an orchard where trees grow side by side.
    • The birth family, former foster families, or other significant people in the child’s life can be other trees in the same family orchard.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable.
    • A child’s need to grieve over their losses will not be fully cured, fixed, or resolved in any predetermined time frame, if ever.
    • Let your child know that feelings related to these losses will come and go at different times in her life.
      • Help your child find a safe person to whom they can express the feelings associated with their loss (this may be a therapist, a teacher, a coach).
    • Model normal, healthy responses to loss.
      • If you or your partner suffers a loss, share your feelings openly.
      • Let your children see you mourn, so they can learn how you express sadness and anger about loss.
      • For male children, seeing an adult man cry can be especially instructive.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

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